The Show Must Go On! -Says World Champion
2020 was a year which took us all by surprise. On the 12th of March, 2020, the whole country was thrown into a state of disarray. It is impossible to think that anyone could have imagined what the next 12 months were going to bring, including the sector of the Performing Arts which was greatly affected by the pandemic.
Dingle’s 5 time World Champion Irish Dancer, David Geaney (26) was just one artist, who was deeply impacted by this years’ global pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, David’s career in Irish Dancing had been a roaring success, taking him to stages all around the world including New York’s Broadway in 2018, with his very own show, ‘Velocity’.
‘I never thought there would be a time in my life where I literally was not allowed to perform in front of an audience! It’s what I was born to do and I love nothing more than entertaining people with my love for dancing’.
David was scheduled to go on an American tour with ‘Velocity’ in 2021 but unfortunately, this has been postponed until a later date due to obvious reasons.
‘I have to consider myself one of the lucky ones as my tour has only been postponed, not cancelled. I know of too many artists who have no work for the foreseeable future and I know how disheartening it is’.
David and his family are proud owners of the ‘The Dingle Pub’ which is situated in the heart of Dingle town, a place where you could catch David seven nights a week, in normal circumstances, dancing for tourists from all over the world, while he also serves them food and drink! But like many pubs during these strange times, The Dingle Pub stands still, isolated from the life that once was.
‘All my life I’ve grown up in a bustling pub, which was always full of music, energy, laughter and life, and still is today, so you can only imagine how heart wrenching it is to wake up to an empty pub, in darkness everyday. My heart goes out to all those businesses who have had to close down because
Like many artists in the Performing Arts industry, David has had to adapt to covid life and find a new way of promoting his spellbinding talent and his growing business. The Dingle dancer began a series of virtual ‘collabs’ with musicians and dancers from all around the world including Ireland, the UK, the United States and as far away as Australia!
‘It’s unheard of in our house to leave a pair of dancing shoes idle and unpolished so when I got the opportunity to virtually collaborate with a dancer from the States, I took it with both hands.’
At the time David didn’t realise the positive impact his collabs had on his viewers. As there were no dancing classes or competitions, it was a way of keeping the culture alive and people connected.
‘I got messages and comments every day from viewers telling me how appreciative they were. The response was more than what I could have asked for or expected.
‘Lockdown, in a strange way, was a much needed time for people to reevaluate their lives. It gave me a chance to choreograph new material and to plan for my future
But David admits that at times, it was tough, ‘I was doing great during the first lockdown in March. My social media platform was expanding everyday but as we came to the second lockdown and then the third, I felt I was losing the motivation, like many artists, to continue with my collabs.’
Inspired by his desire to bring a seed of life back into their now quiet and empty pub, David recently ventured on a new business journey, by kick starting a project called ‘Dingle Cocktails’, in collaboration with The Dingle Pub.
‘Just before Covid hit, I took a severe interest in mixology, so while I had time on my hands and an unused cocktail shaker, I thought what better time to tick something off the bucket list? It’s a great way to enjoy a few drinks while complying with covid regulations, which is essential right now’. We couldn’t agree more David!
Before bringing our interview to a close, I asked David if he had any advice for other members of the hard hit Performing Arts sector and he reminded us ‘that no matter what you do or what it is, keep busy because the end is in sight, but for now, the show must go on!
“Home Sweet Home”
“We can all make a difference by making one small change”
Students from Moville Community College and St. Francis National School Clonmany, County Donegal have already made quite a difference this year. They worked on a collaborative project to raise awareness about the harmful effects of palm oil production. Pupils of St.Francis N.S. then produced a storybook called “Home Sweet Home”, this book is filled with beautiful illustrations created by current sixth class pupils. An accompanying activity book was also devised by TYs with the help of their teacher Mrs. Colleen Cooney. The pupils of St.Francis N.S came up with the storyline for the book and during the first lockdown they created their drawings. Their teacher Mrs. Gemma Doherty then compiled the book and it was printed by Foyle Press.
Moville Community College participates in the Worldwise Global Schools Programme which promotes the integration of Global Citizenship Education (Development Education) in schools. Along with this, they are also one of only ten schools in Ireland participating in the “EU Get Up & Goals” project which promotes the importance of sustainable development goals. Moville Community College has a strong history of working with St. Francis N.S. on Global Citizenship projects. In the past they have worked together on the topic of Fairtrade, however this time they have further investigated the topics of Climate Action and Life on Land to explore the issue of palm oil production as part of their work on global goal themes.
Mrs. Cooney said” I believe all of the students gained so much from this experience. It was so rewarding to investigate Global Goal 12: Responsible Consumption and Production”. It made both students and teachers reflect upon how we contribute to this problem through the choices we make when shopping. Students were able to contribute to the project according to their interests and talents, some did drawings, and others helped with worksheets, provided ideas for the storyline, coordinated sales and marketing and some even wrote articles for the local newspaper. It provided everyone with a great sense of achievement to bring this project to its conclusion and to have the books ready for sale before Christmas 2020. It is a source of great pride for both schools and it really highlights what students and schools can achieve when they work together” Mrs. Doherty added”
I believe the children from St Francis N.S learned so much from their participation in this project. TY students were great with the younger children and they presented their knowledge in a fun-filled, accessible manner. Both schools benefitted immensely from the experience and it would be a privilege to work along-side Moville Community College in future projects. All participants are continuing to learn about the importance of protecting our environment a topic which needs to be a major focus in all schools, both primary and secondary, especially in the current climate”.
Alanna Farrell St Francis N.S. continued” Getting to work with the students of Moville Community College was an amazing experience. Cutting down trees for palm oil production can be stopped, by working together we can achieve this. I am proud to be part of a group which is ensuring that this message is heard’. Ann Abhilash TY also commented: “I became much more aware of the impact the production of palm oil was having on our environment and I really enjoyed working as part of a team and interacting with younger pupils from St.Francis NS”.
Samples of the books were sent to many well-known people and they provided some wonderful feedback. Daniel and Majella O’Donnell congratulated students on the production of the book saying it was “Fantastic and contains an important message, we will certainly read it for our grandchildren.” UTV presenter, Joe Mahon, also said “I have seen a number of similar publications over the years but I can tell you that this is by far the best. It’s so professional-looking and colourful, with marvellous illustrations and clever verses – it’s hard to believe that this was produced by children!” Eoin Colfer, author of the Artemis Fowl books, congratulated them warmly on the “fantastic book” and added “Not only do I love the art and all the lovely stories inside, but I love the message, we can all make a difference by making one small change and that is so true.”
Sixth Class pupils of St. Francis N.S. and current TY classes worked extremely hard to promote and sell these items as Christmas gifts. They are extremely grateful for the financial assistance they received through the “EU Get Up and Goals” programme and for the support of their Irish coordinator Mella Cusack who helped make it all possible. Proceeds from the book sales went towards funding further environmental projects in both schools.
Scammers Targeting Elderly People of Cork Posing as the HSE
Elderly people in Cork have reported receiving calls or messages from scammers claiming to be giving them the option to book an appointment for their COVID 19 vaccination.
The first COVID vaccine to be administered in Cork was given to Professor Mary Horgan, Consultant in infectious diseases and President of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland on the 29th of December in Cork University Hospital. Since then, many vaccine related scams have been identified around the country.
Cork Councillor Ken O Flynn has issued a warning over a vaccine scam targeting elderly people living in Cork. The Councillor issued this warning last night on a Facebook message, stating that many elderly people in Cork had contacted him about the ongoing scam.
People are reporting being told that they can now book an appointment to receive the COVID vaccine in their local hospital. They typically then proceed with questions about the person’s living situation
with questions such as do they have someone to bring them to the hospital and are they living alone. Those affected have also reported being asked by the scammers for their PPN numbers.
“When they say they can’t travel they are asked for personal details like age and if they live alone. The caller then offers to come to their home to give the jab,” said Cllr. O Flynn.
Cllr. O Flynn urges members of the public to warn their family members and friends especially those who are vulnerable and living alone to not give out any personal details over the phone to anyone especially unrecognized numbers.
The problem of COVID vaccine scammers has also been brought to the attention of Gardaí in the Dublin area. Elderly people in Dublin have also reported receiving similar calls and texts from scammers trying to get confidential information from people.
In one case, the hospital mentioned by the scammer was not the woman’s closest hospital which raised suspicion. The woman then said she wished to receive the vaccine in her own home rather than a hospital. The scammers asked her about her age and whether she lives alone or not. The woman called her daughter about the call and they rang the local doctor. The doctor said that it was not the first time someone had received a call similar to hers.
There are reportedly many scams currently operating across the country, Cork and Dublin being the most affected areas. Sources say that some scammers say that payment is required to book your appointment and that it will be refunded as soon as you have received the vaccine.
Gardaí are urging the public to be cautious when it comes to these con-artists and to call the Gardaí if they think they have been the victim of a scam.
“Gardaí are advising people to be vigilant and suspicious of any calls, voicemails, emails etc. from people claiming to represent a company or organization you may be a customer of or work for. The person contacting you may have someinformation about you, so don’t trust them just because they use your name or other personal information,” warned a Garda spokesman.
The Gardaí advised, “always say no to unsolicited calls or emails seeking private information about you. Private information includes your name, address, date of birth, family details, bank account numbers, PIN, passwords.”
Enniscorthy Entering an
Enniscorthy Entering an
The town’s contaminated air causes it to be one of the most polluted areas in the
The local town of Enniscorthy is included on the list of the most polluted towns and cities in Ireland. As of December 2020, the Southeast town was ranked number eight on Ireland’s Air Quality Index (AQI) with a US AQI of 36, the top spot going to the city of Cork.
With Enniscorthy becoming known as the ‘New Dehli’ of Ireland, and Dublin reporting its worst air pollution in 30 years, there is a growing concern over Irish citizens’ health and the state of our current climate. Air pollution is known to cause a host of negative health issues, including causing breathing difficulties and headaches. Long term it can have an incredibly negative impact on your health, even causing cardiovascular disease and asthma. The EPA has reported that close to 1,300 people die prematurely in Ireland as a result of air pollution.
This comes as there is a call to ban the use of smoky coal across the entire country, with hopes of improving urban air quality. A 2019 report from the EPA showed how the use of smoky coal increased levels of air pollution in Irish towns and cities compared to areas that had banned the use of smoky coal. The burning of harmful fossil fuels, such as coal is, without a doubt, Ireland’s leading cause of emissions. In September 1990 a prohibition was introduced, banning the use of smoky coals in Dublin. This prevented people from buying smoky coals altogether, meaning that it was not available
to purchase in Dublin. This prohibition helped with improving air quality in the area, even lowering pollution levels by 70%.
The burning of coal, a fossil fuel, releases large amounts of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Sulfur oxide can cause acid rain, leading to deforestation, the acidification of rivers and lakes and the harm of aquatic life. It is also linked to respiratory issues. Nitrogen dioxide causes harm to vegetation and can impact the yield of crops. Gases like these are also responsible for speeding up the rate of climate change and warming our planet.
However, despite all of the negative aspects of burning fossil fuels, not everyone is happy with the prohibition. The extraction and transportation of fossil fuels provide a livelihood for families across the country. Abandoning fossil fuels would hugely impact their lives, preventing them from earning an income to support their family. This has caused farmers to protest this ban.
In spite of this backlash, to improve air quality in Enniscorthy, the prohibition in Dublin has been extended to the southeast town, along with thirteen other towns across Ireland. This came into force on the 1st of September 2020. This prevents any resident from burning coal to heat their home. To enforce this ban, there was a fine of between 250 and 1,000 euro introduced.
The atrocious air quality causes a host of problems for Enniscorthy’s residents. Not only does the smoky air affect their health negatively, but it also prevents them from carrying out basic activities. Residents of the South East town are unable to open their windows or go for a walk through the town, especially during the evening and at Wintertime. One citizen complaints, and I quote, ‘We are unable to carry out even the simplest activities without having to consider the smoky air!’.
Now in February 2021, Enniscorthy’s AQI has fallen to between 20 and 30, which could be an indication that the ban on smoky coal is having a positive effect on the town’s air quality. It also may be due to it being Springtime, meaning people are less reliant upon burning fires to heat their homes compared to during the winter.
Enniscorthy’s air pollution is an obvious issue that residents of the area hope can be handled. The introduction of a ban on smoky coals is expected to help in solving this issue.
There will never be likes of him again
(Ní bheidh a leithéad arís ann)
I stand with Violetta on the now empty boat, the Lady Laura. The sky is clouded over, the gulls fly high in search of their next meal. There is an underlying feeling of gloom in the air.
It has only been a few short months since the bustling crowds jostled their way onto ongoing boats. “You forgot about everything when you spent time with him” she says, reminiscing about the few joyful years she spent with the beloved dolphin of Dingle Bay.
Fungie brought so much more than fame to the residents of Dingle, “People would often ask how much money Fungie made for Dingle,” Violetta smiles wryly, “I would always say, it is better to count how much joy and happiness he brought for us. People were very happy on the boat, you could see it in their faces. Especially the kids.”
Violetta came to Dingle expecting a better life. She and Fungie are not unlike, both made their home in the picturesque town of Dingle in search of a new beginning. Violetta, originally from Lithuania, worked multiple jobs in west Kerry before finding her calling as a cabin girl on the Lady Laura.
She worked with Fungie for three years during the summer season. “Every day was amazing and different. He left a lot of memories for everyone.” She remembers the first trip in early spring, after long winter months, two years ago. They were looking for him and spotted him far outside Dingle Harbour. He also spotted them and swam towards them rapidly. “You could feel how he missed us during the winter, and how he was happy to see us, I will never forget that moment.”
Violetta shares a story with me of how sensitive Fungie was to the other people around him “There was a boy in a wheelchair onboard, Fungie stayed very close to him, he swam deep and came up again and stayed close to this boy for a while. It was unreal.” Fungie had an emotional connection to humans, something that has never been seen with wild dolphins to such an extent before.
There have been other dolphins known to spend time living close to humans, and seemed to prefer the company of people over others of their kind, but none who spent as long as Fungie, not even close. Dusty, another bottlenose dolphin, spent time between Doolin in County Clare and Inis Oirr in the summer of 2014 but in time moved on. Although Fungie would be known to leave Dingle Bay from time to time, it was rarely for longer than a few days at a time. He always returned to swim among the boats and swimmers in Dingle Harbour.
Violetta believes that life goes on. She has hopes for ecotourism, a new form of tourism which gives responsible travellers an opportunity to observe the fauna and flora of areas without leaving carbon footprints behind.
Fungie spent 37 fleeting years alongside the people of Dingle, earning his place in the Guinness World Records as the oldest solitary wild dolphin in the world. They stated that he arrived in Dingle in 1983, was named after a local fisherman, and soon became a much-loved symbol of the peninsula. But, as mysteriously as he came, Fungie disappeared in October of 2020. There have been many conspiracies about what may have happened to him, the most common thinking is that he passed away.
Violetta, like many others, believes that Fungie breathed his last breath in the calm quiet of Dingle Bay, that he was too old to seek out a new home, “his home was here in Dingle Harbour, and will always be.”
Staying on Pointe in a Pandemic
One art form’s struggle in a pandemic and why its survival is so important.
A wooden barre, pristine leotards and hair in immaculate buns. The sound of classical piano and the swish of leather soles on a smooth marley floor. 2020’s version of a ballet class seems pitiful in comparison, comprising instead of a small screen with a dozen faces, crackling music, a kitchen chair for a barre, and if you are lucky a small patch of floor boards. As someone who has danced for twelve years of my life, it’s hard to believe that this ersatz version of a dance lesson has become part of my routine, and yet I find myself logging onto zoom several times a week in anticipation. Every day, we are discovering new ways in which Covid 19 has affected and will affect our lives. Ballet is no exception, and yet still thousands of young people find it an essential outlet-why?
Whether in sitting rooms or dance studios, there are so many-perhaps unexpected-benefits of ballet. Physically, it improves postural alignment, balance and co-ordination. It builds muscle agility, improves cardiovascular health and improves flexibility. However, like many industries, the coronavirus shut the doors of ballet schools in March of last year and many have remained closed ever since. With this comes the growing worry among the ballet community that with rising rents and an unpredictable future that some schools may not reopen. When speaking with Ruth Shine, a ballet school owner in the greater Dublin and Wicklow area, Ms. Shine commented “My business is hugely affected by lockdown. We have lost over thirty percent of our students because of continued lockdowns and moving online.”
This is what drove ballet teachers around the country to form the Irish Ballet Teachers’ Association, to push for 250 ballet schools to be considered as education providers in relation to Covid 19 restrictions. On December third dance teachers held a socially distanced protest outside Leinster House, looking to grab the attention of the government. The demonstration was part of the “What About Us” campaign, highlighting the difficulties faced by the industry and the lack of government support available to the arts. Ms. Shine argues that “The continued neglect of the arts sector and of children’s activities [and thus their welfare] has had long lasting impacts on all”. Ballet seems to have proved its value, with studies showing it improves motor sensory performance [the ability to react to external stimuli] and one meta -analysis even found that ballet was a useful way to limit the risk of age-related mental impairments, such as dementia by seventy six percent.
Despite the struggles, all you have to do is look at social media to witness the sense of unity among the ballet community. From local schools offering free classes to national companies holding virtual events. Ms. Shine told me “I have had students that have moved away to other countries return to my classes as well as past students teaching classes.” Regardless of all of the physical benefits, this was probably not the reason why so many people found it essential to dance during this pandemic. It was probably due to the many mental and emotional benefits. Ballet has been proven to strengthen problem solving, build self-confidence and hugely reduce stress. The physical movement releases endorphins, while classical music is proven to shave a positive calming effect on the body- something we all need at the moment. No, it is not the need to stay in shape that keeps people dancing, but instead the routine, the normality and the hour of escape that makes ballet dancers all over the country (myself included) diligently log on to zoom, don a pair of pink tights, and force siblings out of living rooms in the midst of a global pandemic.
Covid 19 may have highlighted a lack of funding for the arts and many challenges that hinder us from doing the things we love. However, it has also shown us what is truly important and how a community comes together in a crisis. As Edith Eger-ballerina, psychologist and holocaust survivor- writes; “It’s the first time I see that we have a choice: to pay attention to what we’ve lost or to pay attention to what we still have”. For myself and other dancers, this means an hour of jetés and pliés in the sitting room. But everyone has this opportunity to reconnect to something they love and to show resilience in the face of frustration, fear, or grief. And whether it be through smiling under a mask, laughing through a screen or maybe even dancing in your sitting room, the truth is, we have never been more of an ensemble.
Romance is like a walk in the park. Jurassic Park.
My brother was never a fan of fiction books growing up. I, on the other hand, gobbled them up quicker than the Labrador puppy we accidentally underfed for two weeks. So when my parents started arguing, the first thing that popped into my twelve-year-old head was ‘divorce’. I knew what was stampeding towards us six months before my big brother did; the young adult novels that lined my bedroom walls had spelled it out for me. I just never thought I would become the main character.
It didn’t take me long to learn that something about families falling apart makes people twitchy. More twitchy than a mariachi group marooned behind a bush after a flopped proposal. So I respect and pity those who open a conversation with kids of divorce. Since everyone’s experience is as unique as a cheetah’s spots, it’s hard to navigate the topic without offending someone. And that’s exactly why kids’ questions are smothered like the runt of a litter. But here’s what people don’t understand – the real problem isn’t that partners split. The problem is the kids that are left behind. The kids that, when the shackles of legal bills are thrown to the dust, still straddle a chasm of distrust, conflict, and bittersweet memories, liable to fall apart at any moment with the travel bag that sits at the front door, never gathering dust.
Some of us ‘bounce back’ just fine. Like I said, not all separations are as contested as pineapple on pizza. But the kids unfortunate enough to be caught in the middle of a dogfight face an increased risk of clinical
depression, emotional detachment, and one hell of an awkward graduation.
A lot of people aren’t aware of how things are sorted in a separation, so here’s a bitesized refresher. When one partner isn’t biting the other’s head off, mediation is the go-to resolution reacher. This involves a mediator, the ex-spouses and sometimes their lawyers reenacting the Knights of the
Round Table until everyone has an equal piece of the breakup pie. Unsurprisingly, that doesn’t always float the boat. This is when the awe-inspiring family courts step up to ‘save the day’. Judicial separation means that a judge is appointed to decide how assets are divvied up. When minors are involved, the court usually orders a Section 47. Essentially, the dirty work of deciding where children will live and what they will see of each parent is passed on to a counsellor. For kids, the whole process goes a little like this:
Your future bundled into a single file in a stack as high as your parents’ blood pressure. Your fate resting on whether you can prove you know your desires better than a big-shot psychologist that you met for three hours. Your teenage years dwindling away at the hands of a system that claims to have the best interests of children at heart, but can barely make decisions before your childhood comes to a pathetic end.
In 2021, divorce isn’t an ‘adult thing’ any more than sex is. Unfortunately, people love to ignore children even more than they love the commute to work in a pandemic. Don’t get me wrong – I’d rather I wasn’t thrown into that mess just as much as the next kid. But once I was, I wished people could just get their act together. Wished they would stop using age as an excuse to dismiss questions as inappropriate. Stop ignoring that Michelle Obama comparing Donald Trump’s presidency to ‘spending the weekend with your divorced dad’ was a slap in the face to me and my father. And stop pretending I didn’t have a high enough security clearance to be informed of the fate of my family.
They say, ‘The family that prays together stays together’. Pity we weren’t religious.
‘Self praise is no praise’
During a recent morning walk, my mind wandered to how happy I am with the progress I have made with my self confidence. The first lockdown passed by miserably, every day chasing a mirage of self improvement that would ironically drag my mental health into a place much worse than it had been before. Almost a year later and after much work, I can now say I am finally feeling great in my own skin, which is something I’m very proud of. Then, out of the blue, a memory of a close older family member smugly retorting ‘self praise is no praise’ to me as a younger child after scoring a winning goal in a hockey match entered my mind. Instinctively, I was consumed with guilt on my walk, every feeling of self satisfaction dissipating. After all, who am I to be telling myself I am great? My mind was rapidly allowing itself to follow down back to its old thought pattern. After some consideration and self consolation, I let it go, told myself I was great and carried on my walk.
I count myself as very fortunate to be able to rationally discredit this phrase that has been drummed into Irish people especially, making us fear ever being seen as big headed or full of ourselves. Adults pass this fear on to their children, unable to allow their child to feel the confidence they themselves were never permitted to feel as they grew up. Comments on other people who are just being themselves are spit out in every corner of society. If someone posts a selfie on social media, they are begging for attention. When a person informs someone of a recent job promotion, they’re bragging. Someone decides they’d like to start running, well they’re full of themself too. An LGBT person who comes out for the first time is of course only following a trend. But if you dare to speak out about this way of shutting down confidence, you are problematic and overly sensitive! How can we learn to be ourselves if doing so is wrong?
We are called the snowflake generation. All too delicate to be exposed to any type of dissonant opinion, too lazy to apply ourselves to working towards goals, and too fussy to eat what our ancestors have eaten for years. With the sole purpose of frustrating others, we are vegan, vegetarian, LGBT, feminists, men haters, eco-loving, selfie posing monsters. What is so wrong with these identities? When I tell someone I am vegetarian I am suddenly met with concerns about my body’s nutritional levels, yet if I were to eat chunks of greasy steak and chips all day there’d be no questions asked. When we say we are concerned about the planet and want to use reusable bags when shopping, what’s heard is “I am fussy and am trying to spend all of your money on useless bags”. While many people are expected to wear makeup to fit in, the act of wearing makeup can be greeted with approval or disdain, like everything else we may undertake.
No matter what we do we will be met with the objections of others, not allowed to become too happy with ourselves, not to do things in a new way, and it makes my blood boil. How are we supposed to meet our full potential when every step towards improvement is received with mixed signals? At this point in modern society, I think that people would have learned to keep their opinions to themselves. Sadly this is not true, and the people buried deepest in the trap of negative self talk are the people most insistent in keeping up the tradition. I make a plea for people to simply accept things the way they are. Keep it to yourself, let go of it, then be a allow yourself to be selfish and do what makes you, yourself, feel good. Stick to your morals and be proud of doing so. Teach yourself to praise yourself, because contrary to what I was once told, you will never hear any praise better. If you don’t praise yourself, you will never realise that you are quite amazing. It is time to let go of this centuries-old culture of shame, and to work on being our own greatest fans.
“A Countenance More in Anger than in Sorrow”
3,674 deaths. 3,674 families. Three thousand, six hundred and seventy-four funerals. 10 attendees, for each funeral, for each death, ten people allowed to attend. There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Depression has been spoken about more than ever in the last year, the whole situation is constantly being described as depressing and it is, there is no question about that. The question remains however, in this depressing time, how is one expected to grieve? No one can give an answer, no one can expect anyone to deal with grief in a time where is seems to be overtaking. The country is to slip into a depression, not only economically, but in spirit. As it seems that everyone’s spirits have been truly extinguished this year because of the so called “Covid funeral.”
As someone who has experienced what it is like to bid farewell to your loved ones, in an empty church, as someone who knows what it is like to try and comfort your grieving relatives, over skype, who knows what it is like to hear the echoing sound of the church doors shutting behind myself and my limited family as we wheeled the coffin up the aisle, that spilt two sections of empty pews, a sound that haunts me still. Eight hands pushing a white four-foot coffin, each one shaking with grief. I will never forget my cousin’s hand which remain placed on my shoulder for the entirety of the mass, he felt it necessary to be there for me, as no one else could be. I will never forget the gaze of the priest, staring down on each member of my family, speaking to us, and only us. A gaze that penetrated the heart and will remain in my mind forever, a sorrowful gaze.
The church mocked our cries, imitating them back at us. I will never forget the feeling of being watched, like an animal in a cage, knowing there was a camera behind you livestreaming your grief to hundreds. Funerals date back to the stone age, for as long as people have died, their lives have been celebrated. But why? Ceremonies dedicated to the deceased are not confined to religion, are not confined to communities, not even to humans. Living things are programmed to grieve, to mourn and never had they had limits such as these placed on them.
I have seen it firsthand, watched this new form of grief eat away at my parents, like a creature who cannot seem to get enough. I have watched them as they have changed, their usually coping methods fading away, leaving me asking, are they coping at all? Leaving me with the scarier question, how many people, nation-wide are asking the same question about the people they love?
Everybody is chasing normality, what everything was liked before, but I do not think we will ever achieve this, as along with everything else, we have changed. The vaccine may be able to promise safety from the virus, but it cannot guarantee that it will fix everything. There has been constant talk of economic recovery, the recovery of those with the virus, but I want to know if those who have suffered from loss, those who have tried to deal with grief, or witness others deal with grief. Will they ever truly recover?
The Joy of Sport
Sunday the 22nd of November, 2020, virtually 100 years to the day, was a day of incredible joy and happiness for the people of Tipperary and Cavan. Tipperary won their first Munster Final in 85 years while Cavan won their first Ulster Final in 23.
Sport is so important in life for people’s health and fitness but it also can bring us immense joy. I myself watched the Cavan-Donegal match with my family, naturally only on television because no one could go to it except players and officials due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Donegal were strong favourites to win. Expectations in Cavan were low — actually non-existent! Nevertheless, for 75 to 80 minutes, we watched in disbelief as Cavan put it up to Donegal, even going ahead in the first 10 minutes.
Near the end of the match, when Cavan scored the all-important goal, every household in Cavan nearly lifted the roof. We were absolutely thrilled. On a dark November day in a dark year, it was a great lift for the people of Cavan.
So that evening, we headed off with our blue eyeshadow and our Cavan flags and headbands to Cavan town. There was a “drive-by” in Breffni Park to celebrate the victorious
I have never witnessed anything like the joy, the excitement, and the happiness in Cavan town before. Everyone stayed in their cars, beeping their horns, and flying their flags. Maybe a few hung out of their windows.
There were all age groups present and everyone I could see was smiling and happy. It seemed as if everyone in the county had headed for Breffni Park.
The team were on a trailer and were clapping, cheering, and waving as the cars passed. It was such a wonderful atmosphere and I will never forget it.
The incredible thing is that the same four teams now in the All-Ireland semi-finals are the same teams that featured in 1920: Dubin, Mayo, Tipperary, and the mighty Cavan.
I couldn’t wait to go to school on Monday last to see my lovely Leitrim friends, who I knew would want to celebrate with me.
Brilliant Blackmore A National Delight
4 miles 2 ½ furlongs, thirty spruce fences and 40 adrenaline pumped horses and jockeys strung out across the starting tape. Millions riveted to their every move over the next ten minutes or so. Squadrons of cameras were deployed to beam the sun-drenched Aintree course into the living rooms of the world. For once racing enthusiasts didn’t have to wrestle the TV remote from other family members as everyone scrambled to catch a glimpse of all the thrills and spills in this rollercoaster race.
Even the jockeys showed that they were not immune to nerves as a false start ramped up the tension. On the second attempt the flag then dropped and started the almost traditional cavalry charge down to the first fence. We weren’t to know it but Rachael Blackmore and Minella Times were about to jump their way into history. Blackmore started her mount down the middle-inner of the track and found a pocket of space after the first to let Minella Times catch a good sight of his fences. Approaching Becher’s Brook Blackmore tagged to the rail where Minella produced a fine jump before then executing the tricky Canal Turn perfectly. Horse and rider seemed to be in a perfect rhythm as they flew out over the iconic “Chair” the jump that signals to those that know that you are almost halfway to destiny. Minella Times held an almost identical position approaching Becher’s for the second times as he did the first. At the fourth last Minella Times cruised past the favorite for the race Cloth Cap and landed himself in the perfect position to challenge as the field turned for home. Coming off the final bend into the second last Blackmore let her mount jump into the lead and in doing so led the field down to the last where in any normal (non-covid!) year the roar of the Aintree faithful would have lifted horse and jockey over the last and carry them up the finishing straight, but the absence of a crowd did little to lessen the sense of history that was palpable in the moment as Minella Times gallantly fended off the challenge of Balko Des Flos and Any Second Now to etch his name into the holy grail of National Hunt racing. As for the woman on his back it was a glass ceiling shattered. Rachael Blackmore will now be known as the first female rider to win the Grand National. After watching Katie Walsh’s piece on female riders and the Grand National, Rachael’s victory was almost theatre like.
John Nallen had a big role to play in the success of Minella Times when he purchased him as a foal and reared him on the family farm in Co. Tipperary back in 2013 ( the same year he acquired future Gold Cup winner Minella Indo) . Nallen couldn’t have known that eight years on he would be shouting this horse home in the biggest race of the year. Nallen explains where the names of the horse originated from. “Minella is the name of the family hotel that we have owned since 1961 in Clonmel. The night I was naming the horses I was sitting in the reception of the hotel and I had the naming forms with me and I just looked up and saw the three papers on the counter, The Times, The Independent and The Examiner. The Examiner didn’t turn out as well as the other two but that’s the way it goes”.
It was a second win in the Grand National for JP McManus after Don’t Push It won it in 2010. As for Henry De Bromhead, of all that he has achieved in his remarkable season so far this surely sits at the top of the tree. Blackmore summed it up best “ I don’t even feel human” was her reaction after the race. Winning something like that you definitely don’t feel human, you feel invincible.
The roar of the home crowd could be heard throughout Donnybrook. The second leg of the Irish women’s hockey team Olympic qualifiers, being played in front of 6,137 Irish fans on the newly transformed hockey pitch in Energia park. Last nights match was a 0-0 draw but the girls in green
needed to put on a show tonight if they want to be Tokyo bound this coming summer. It was also a chance for these girls to avenge their male counterparts who lost in the cruellest and most controversial fashion to Canada, just one week ago.
Ireland’s top goal scorer, Anna O’ Flanagan looked threatening early on. Ireland’s defence was not to be tampered with in the first quarter, until the Canadians had the ball in the Irish net, but with the ball last hitting off an Irish stick, it was ruled out, a lucky escape for Ireland which they needed to capitalise on.
An unfortunate start to the second quarter saw Ireland’s Deirdre Duke given a green card and she was dismissed from play. Ireland began to regain momentum when they were granted a penalty corner, but the decision was overturned after a Canada video referral request, showing Mullan using a back stick. They struggled to find the back of the Canadian net at all after this. Tensions were starting to creep in as scores were still level at 0-0 with only two quarters left.
The second half mirrored the first, with Canada having only one strike on Irish goalie, Ayeisha McFerran, which luckily went flying into the side net. Canadian goalie, Kaitlyn Williams, went mainly unchallenged throughout the full 60 minutes. A relatively dull match, but a place in Tokyo was still on the line. With scores still level at 0-0 when the whistle blew, the sides fate would be decided by five penalty shuttles each. This Irish side was no stranger to a shootout, after coming through two on their road to the World Cup Final, 2019.
Nerves were extremely high among the Donnybrook crowd as both teams set up for the penalties. Canada went first with Norlander converting it. Ireland’s Gill Pinder failed to level the scores. Nicki Daly neatly slotted hers in, but Upton couldn’t convert hers. Next came a foul on Canadian skipper, Kate Wright, resulting in a Sara McManus goal. With Canada now 3-1 up in this thrilling encounter, it looked like Ireland’s hopes of a place in Tokyo were slipping further from their grasp. However, two stunning saves from McFerran, just as she did in last years World Cup run, meant Ireland were well and truly back in this match after Barr and Watkins scored tremendous goals to make it 3-3, bringing it to sudden death. It looked like the rub of the green was with the Irish girls today.
Roisin Upton steps up first. With the pressure on after missing her first attempt, she will be looking to prove herself this time. And with the steeliest of guts, that is what she did as she slots the ball in with not even a second to spare. The ball scraping into the goal at the tightest of angles. The crowd erupts but Canada can still level scores. Everyone fell into a deafening silence. Canada could not convert their penalty and Ireland along with their home crowd began to celebrate. But this match would not be over without another twist. Canada call for the umpire to go upstairs to take a look for a foul. A sudden hush fell over the ground as the decision was being reviewed. Then the decision came from the umpire, “no clear reason to change your decision”. A triumphant roar came over the ground. Ireland had won by the barest of margins. Ecstasy for Ireland, absolutely agony for Canada. The final score line reading 4-3 Ireland.
Never before has an Irish women’s hockey team been to the Olympics. This was an extremely special bunch of girls who had made significant sacrifices for this very moment. Skipper Katie Mullan, mentioned after how proud she is of the group, “We have worked so hard, some of us have put in 10, 12 years and it’s also for all the players that have gone before us. All those who committed so much of their lives to international hockey and never made it to the Olympics. We are representing them. I am delighted”.
After the past two years of Olympic qualifier heartbreak. This is the moment they have been waiting for. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”, never before has a quote been more applicable as Sean Dancers side set off to compete at their first ever Olympic Games. “This is just a hurdle – the goal is an Olympic medal”.